The Co-op Board of Directors hosted an ice cream social for staff in late May to show their appreciation to staff. While the board appreciates the staff every day, staff are going above and beyond their regular routines to accommodate many changes. The social was held in the old store space where the board meets monthly. This location did not go un-noticed as many noted how much the Co-op has grown.
There were many flavors of ice cream, but where the board went… well, overboard, was with the toppings: from pretzels and M&Ms to nuts, fresh fruit, and two kinds of secret recipe sauces (caramel and chocolate). All the ingredients were on hand to create a well-deserved treat. More than 30 staff members came by, some with just the time to grab an ice cream and go back to work or to a meeting, others with a bit more time to sit and talk.
As the expansion continues, keeping the store moving smoothly is a balancing act and one that has not gone unnoticed by customers. The board wanted to express gratitude to the staff for making the Coop function in the middle of a construction site. Board members hear every day from member-owners how the staff is always friendly and available to answer questions and to help. We really wanted to acknowledge that, and the fact that they make the store feel as welcoming as ever, in spite of all the kinds of interferences that an expansion brings about (noise, dust, having to park further away from the store, etc.).
Beyond expressing thanks to the staff, the members of the board who were able to attend the social appreciated the wonderful opportunity to connect directly with members of the Staff. These two “sides” of the Co-op work in tandem, but have very seldom the chance to connect personally.
Ilaria Brancoli-Busdraghi is a long-serving Co-op Board Member. Do you have any questions about the Board and how we do our work? Write anytime with comments, questions or suggestions: email@example.com.
The election results are in, and we’re welcoming a brand new board member – Molly Anderson! Molly is a Professor of Food Studies at Middlebury College. Here’s what she had to say about why she’d like to join the Co-op Board of Directors:
I want to contribute to MNFC and participate more actively in helping it thrive. It’s a great coop now; and I’d like to help MNFC member-owners, staff and GM work through our next phase, which will make it an even stronger community center. I’m committed to keeping the coop viable, yet making it even more accessible and affordable to low-income residents.
While I’ve lived in Middlebury a bit less than 2 years, I have been working with organizations and businesses throughout New England for the past 30 years that are working to improve our food system. I think that I could bring knowledge about food system issues, resources and trends that might be useful to the Board. I’ve been a member of food coops in North Carolina, Arlington and Cambridge (Mass) and Maine, but haven’t served on their Boards. I do have considerable Board experience, however: I chaired the national Community Food Security Coalition’s board for 6 years, and served on the New Entry Sustainable Farming Project Board (Massachusetts). I also clerked the New England Earthcare Committee, a Quaker environmental group with food and environmental interests; and I serve on several Advisory Boards for food system organizations.
I’m a bridge-builder and networker through my work, and I think collaboration across different perspectives is how we solve social problems. In my experience, Boards work best when members feel their time is valued; when meetings are planned carefully; when there is good communication across the organization’s management, staff and Board; and when Board members listen to each other deeply and respect differences of opinion as they try to reach agreements or compromises. While social capital is essential for good group dynamics, it’s important to stay focused on the tasks that need to be done.
I’m on the faculty of Middlebury College as Professor of Food Studies, responsible for developing a new interdisciplinary program in food studies. I’m also a member of Food Solutions New England and the (national) Inter-Institutional Network for Food, Agriculture & Sustainability.
As co-op owners, you elect directors to the Board, who work on your behalf. Most of that work is done at the monthly board meetings, bi-annual board retreats, committee meetings, and several ad hoc meetings each month. On the fourth Wednesday of each month at 6:30 pm, you will find the Co-op Board of Directors around a table munching on tamari roasted almonds and sliced apples doing what they do best – guiding the health and well-being of this vibrant member-owned Addison County institution. As the Co-op Board President, it’s my job to compile an agenda for each monthly board meeting and post it, along with other reading or reference material, in the form of a board meeting packet. The content is collected from various sources; by the time the board packet is posted to our web-based collaboration tool, it’s a 20-50 page document. Packets are posted the week before board meetings to allow for plenty of study time. Frequently, they contain financial data in spreadsheet form that requires special attention. Here’s an example of a typical Board Meeting Agenda.
Meetings have a consistent flow from month to month and always start with a final agenda check. (Everything here that should be? Anything that shouldn’t?) We always discuss any matters brought to our attention by you either in person or through a conversation with a board member as our second agenda item. Next, we review the previous month’s meeting minutes and make any corrections or clarifications (although Victoria writes such good minutes, this doesn’t take long). Then we vote to accept them for the permanent record.
After these first few tasks, we often turn to monthly policy monitoring chores. Our system of Policy Governance involves adhering to policies that direct the activities of both the board and general manager. This is done through a regular schedule of monitoring to ensure compliance. Learn more about Policy Governance here. (http://www.policygovernance.com/model.htm) If it’s a Governance Policy (GP), we review it and decide whether, as a board, we are in compliance. (We usually are.) If it’s an Executive Limitation (EL), we review the report that Glenn has provided to demonstrate his compliance and decide whether we agree. (We nearly always do.) At around this point, we discuss the monthly “GM Report” for a while. This report is not about policy compliance, but is informative and designed to give the board insight into the “under the hood” workings of our co-op, as well as views of “the big picture”, such as what is happening regionally and nationally in the world of food co-ops and in the market conditions that affect us.
With any luck, we’re halfway through the meeting now and turn to a list of timely or topical agenda items. These might include updates from committee chairs; retreat planning; expansion project details; board training and education; and communication and outreach. The impressive part of a monthly board meeting is the quality and dedication each member brings to his or her commitment to representing the Co-op. By 8:20, we review next steps, tasks, assignments and due dates before we adjourn and head home at 8:30.
Tam Stewart is our current Board President. Do you have any questions about the Board and how we do our work? Write anytime with comments, questions or suggestions: firstname.lastname@example.org.
The candidates are ready and the ballots are in the mail…you should see one in your mailbox next week. The ballot packet includes information about the election, candidate bios and photos, a preview of our Annual Meeting Celebration and our Annual Report. You can link directly to everything but the ballot (the ballot will only be in your mailbox!), RIGHT HERE. After you’ve filled out your ballot, bring it to any cashier to redeem your Coupon for $3.00 of Any Vermont Product (this will be attached to your ballot). All ballots need to be in before 7pm on May 26th. Happy voting!
As a new member of the Board of Directors, I frequently get asked why I choose to be a board member. We are all familiar with the refrain “voting with your dollars” as a shared value of conscious consumers. I choose to spend my money at the co-op because I believe in this slogan. I choose to be a member of the Board of Directors because I similarly believe in the concept of “voting with your time.” Being a member of the board allows me to “spend” my time committing to the power of democracy and to pursue lifelong learning.
Wendell Berry writes: “No matter how much one may love the world as a whole, one can live fully in it only by living responsibly in some small part of it.” In these unsettled times, participating in the democratic leadership of a cooperatively owned, local business allows me to practice living responsibly in my small part of the world. Our co-op may seem like a small fish in the big pond of the globe—whether we buy organic, fair trade chocolate chips at the co-op, or conventional chocolate chips at a big-box store may seem dolefully inconsequential in the face of the massive social-justice issues our world faces. But, it’s really not; these choices matter. Participating in the democratic ownership of the co-op, however, allows me to devote my dollars, time and energy to the pursuit of an alternative to our global status quo.
Being on the Board of Directors also offers opportunities for meaningful personal growth. I recently attended a cooperative board leadership workshop, and it was truthfully the most useful training that I have ever attended. In only a few hours, I had the opportunity to learn the history and saliency of the cooperative movement, meet board members from our neighboring co-ops, and learn essential skills for my board work. My highlight of the day was building MNFC’s financial model with LEGOs alongside Glenn, our General Manager, and Ann, a fellow board member! The concepts and skills I took away from that day have proven to be not only indispensable for my work with MNFC, but also highly translatable to my job as a cooperative leader of the Bridge School.
The election season for our co-op is in full swing. As you decide whether to spend your time filling out your ballot, and voting for new members of the Board of Directors, I urge you to remember Wendell Berry’s notion. Our co-op may be small, but voting for our board allows us to exercise our democratic muscles and live responsibly in our small part of the world, and thereby living fully in the world as a whole – Amanda Warren, Board Member, Middlebury Natural Foods Co-op
To learn more about the Co-op’s Board of Directors, click here.
It’s our very local election time! Please consider running for MNFC’s Board of Directors. Spring arrives this month and with it the time when Middlebury Natural Food Co-op member-owners have an opportunity to participate more fully in the overall wellbeing of the Co-op.
We invite all member-owners to consider running for open seats on the Board of Directors. The voting takes place during the month of May. Elected winners are announced at the MNFC Annual Meeting, and new board members begin their term at the June Board of Directors Meeting. There are four open seats this election season. Please see the information for potential candidates below. Applications are due must be received by Tuesday, March 14, 2017
Board of Directors Applications are available here.
Open Letter to Potential Board Candidates
Thank you for your interest in serving on the Middlebury Natural Foods Co-op’s Board of Directors. The election packet provides you with an overview of Board functions and responsibilities to help you make your decision about running for the Board. Please contact Kate Gridley (email@example.com) or any member of the Board for further information.
Board of Directors
The Board of Directors is the legal representative of the member-owners of the Middlebury Natural Foods Co-op and thus is responsible for the overall wellbeing of the Co-op. The Board exercises its responsibilities through its relationship with the General Manager, whom it hires and monitors. It is made up of 11 directors and one non-voting staff representative. Each term of office is three years, and terms are staggered so no more than four terms expire each year. There are no term limits.
Powers and Duties
Provide linkage between the Board and member-owners.
Create policies that are consistent with cooperative principals and MNFC Ends. (Policy Governance-see below)
Monitor management performance on implementing policy.
Work to perpetuate the cooperative.
(Operations are the sole responsibility of the General Manager.)
Qualifications of Candidates
Be or become a member of the Co-op in good standing.
Express yourself in a clear, concise manner.
Work in a group and support decisions made by consensus.
Devote the time necessary to accomplish Board objectives and fulfill your term.
Communicate electronically using email and the Board’s web-based information sharing program.
Understand financial statements or be willing to learn through instruction.
Expectations for Directors
Make a three-year commitment to the Board of Directors.
Attend two Board orientation sessions and a training for cooperative boards in the first two years of your term. This is a one-day session typically held In Brattleboro on a Saturday in January. (MNFC pays for travel expenses).
Have familiarity with and adherence to the Co-op’s by-laws and Board policies.
Prepare for and attend monthly Board meetings (6:30-8:30pm, usually on the fourth Wednesday of the month at the Co-op), sub-committee meetings, a day-long annual retreat (early February), the Co-op’s Annual Meeting (early June) and Co-op community events. Time commitment averages 3-4 hours per month.
Take responsibility for Board duties and work together with understanding, mutual support and respect to make decisions that will enhance the viability of the Co-op.
Keep information and materials confidential when appropriate.
The Board of Directors of MNFC operates using the model of Policy Governance. This model of leadership results in the General Manager making all operational decisions. Rather, the Board focuses its attention on the strategic direction of the Co-op, engaging with member-owners and monitoring management performance. Policies are developed by the Board outlining how the Board functions, how authority is delegated to management, what limitations management may have and to define Ends toward which management works. Management then reports to the Board in written monitoring reports as to compliance or non-compliance with these policies.
In recognition of the time and commitment required to prepare for and attend meetings, required trainings and events, directors receive a stipend of $ 600/year plus a 10% discount on all purchases (except alcohol) at the Co-op.
Committee chairs and Executive Officers receive additional stipends.
The votes were tallied and the results are in! We’re excited to announce the three candidates elected (or re-elected) to your 2016 Board of Directors:
Thank you to everyone who voted! One of the coolest things about being a member of the Co-op is that membership is ownership in your Co-op. Exercising your right to vote in Board elections is one of the best ways to shape the direction of your Co-op, and we’re grateful that so many of you took the time to do so! Voter turnout was excellent this year.
We also want to extend our gratitude to all of the candidates who ran for the Board this year. It was a record number! It takes guts to put your hat in the ring, and we’re thankful that you did. We hope you’ll consider running again next year!
It’s an exciting time for our Co-op and we can’t wait to see what the future has in store with these new leaders at the helm!
In May you’ll receive your Co-op Newsletter in paper format in order to provide all member-owners with ballots for voting in our 2016 Election for the MNFC Board of Directors. You’ll find the ballot in this Newsletter, along with instructions on how to vote in this important election. Short bios with information about the candidates are included in this Newsletter’s insert. Remember to come to our Annual Meeting to find out the results!